Backwater medicine: Elephant poo tea
Trip Start Sep 26, 2010
44Trip End Jun 10, 2011
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Our entire overland group choose to take this excursion and we all enjoyed two nights bush camping on a small island roughly a quarter days journey into the delta. The mokoro trip was peaceful as we were poled through the delta along narrow lanes in the tall reeds
Some highlights of this trip were a bushman's walk, attempting poling myself, and a sunset cruise. The bushman's walk was very entertaining as our guide, a true local in the area, knew and was proud to share his extensive knowledge of bush medicine. The funny part was that his communication skills were lacking which combined with his love of long winded story telling made for long periods of us in a bewildered state. We tried to piece together what he was saying without laughing at his delivery or the meaning he was conveying when we finlly understood. In English we have a tendency to say "mm" or "uh" when we pause mid sentence in thought. Our guide did not pause but seemed to end every sentence with a long "mmmmmmmmmmmmm" sung as if he were enjoying a delicious dessert. We were not sure if this mmmmm was for emphasis or was a thinking pause or had yet another meaning
"So.... (pause) ... when a woman has a baby in her belly, mmmmmmmmmmmmm, we are a long way from hospital, you know mmmmmmmmmmmmm, a full days journey by boat and then a long bumpy jeep ride into town mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. So when the baby is ready to come but is not in the coming mmmmmm and woman wants the baby to come mmmmmmmmm we go out and find this" - at this point he reaches down and breaks off a large chunk of poo in his hands - " however it must be very fresh MMMMmmmmmmmmmmmm, even one day old is not good enough mmmmmmmmm, we first get water mmmmmmmmm, and make fire and take water and we puts it to boil in large pot over fire mmmmmmmmm, and we take this fresh poo and crush piece with hands into water and we mix it stirring well mmmmmmmmm, thens we gives to the woman and she drinks......". This last part was said as he demonstrated the crushing technique with the dried poo in his hands.
The actual story was about twice as along as he explained more about each step, punctuating each thought with a long "mmmmmmmmm". At the point in the story where we finally figured out the elephant poo tea was meant to induce labor we all smiled both in recognition and in disgust of the idea. It probably works but cannot imagine that it is entirely pleasant. Each story did not really have a beginning or end and all we knew when he started talking that it would be either odd or funny and that we would be listening for a long while to figure it out.
Another story was about how to cure bad luck and this time centered around a special type of termite mound and the precise process for first roasting the mound over fire and the preparation and drinking of the tea after the smoking mound had been pulverized with the root of wild sage
The walk was incredible for another reason. Typically on safari you are in a vehicle driving around with the animals sometimes distant and other times very close. In all instances the animals see a car or truck rolling by and have gotten used to it to the point that they ignore it. Here we were walking downwind and from the direction of the rising sun so that the animals could neither see us nor smell us. They could only, if we made sufficient noise, hear us. And when they did, it was clear that we were new and they were both curious and apprehensive. Being on the ground, the same ground, that they were on was a very different, somewhat immersive feeling
We snuck up on a group of twenty something impala and small herd of ten to fifteen zebra who, when they finally saw one of the other small parties from our group, made a mad dash directly in front of us. When they saw us so close after crossing our path they again startled but only ran out of stick throwing distance and then turned to inspect us. Later we came up behind a mating herd (one male, several females - different than a bachelor herd of all males) of giraffe and a large group of water buffalo and zebra. They walk and eat together as the giraffe are good lookouts with their long necks and good eyes and the zebras eat the sweet grass on bottom after the indiscriminate buffaloes remove the drier tasteless upper grass. At one point a male giraffe stood and stared at us in curiosity as we stared back in marvel being on the same ground without the barrier of cage or car. It was a neat experience. In the end we saw a half dozen species of animal, day old elephant poo (still not fresh enough for labor inducing tea), and lion tracks indicating that both were within the area recently.
In the middle of the second day several of us tried our hand at poling the mokoros
Another highlight, the sunset cruise, took us around an island and into the delta where we watched the sun dip into the horizon as we peacefully floated in the still water. Birds sang, Arms made himself a water lily head dress, we played with one of the tiny white frogs, and we all enjoyed the fading light and the smooth gliding of the mokoros through the cool backwaters of the delta. Life is sweet, this trip is awesome, very happy to be here. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.